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April 1, 2011

  
President Garvey speaks with students during a picnic after the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit.

This message comes to you at a time when classes have ended and everyone’s thoughts turn to final exams and the conclusion of the academic year. This column will probably be my final communication with the CUA community at large before we usher in the 2011-12 school year. I want to take the opportunity to give you some impressions of my first year as president.

It has been a wonderful experience for me professionally and personally. I had a very positive impression of Catholic University before I took the job here and came prepared to love the University. My admiration for the institution, the faculty, staff, and students has only grown with each passing week. This is not an admiration that I have developed from the level of 20,000 feet. By that I mean I’ve devoted this first year to meeting as many of the people associated with the University as possible. When I arrived in the summer, I started at the top, meeting with the vice presidents. Since then Jeanne and I have made a point of holding a series of social gatherings with each of the deans and department chairs. I calculate that I’ve met about 150 faculty members and perhaps an equal number of staff (by meet, I mean more than just waving hello and shaking hands). I’ve made the acquaintance of 400 to 500 students. Living on campus and being able to drop in at the Pryz during mealtime or at athletic events at the DuFour Center has made it so much easier to get to know individual students. Still, if you do the math, I’ve got a ways to go before I’ve completed the rounds of our faculty, staff, and students. It’s something for me to look forward to in the second year of my presidency.

Meeting the people who make this University run has been such an important part of my education as President. But of necessity, it has occupied less of my time than I would wish. A significant part of each day has had to be devoted to attending to the University’s ongoing business while also planning for its long-term future. One of the immediate concerns is to fill the key positions of general counsel and vice president for university development. In regards to the former, we have engaged Major, Lindsey & Africa, a major attorney placement firm. With its help we will soon be interviewing candidates and expect to have a new general counsel by late July or early August. Sarah Phelps had generously agreed to stay on while we searched for a new general counsel but will be leaving us this month to pursue a new opportunity.

As for the new vice president for university development, we have retained Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm. Their representative spent two full days on campus after Easter interviewing key campus stakeholders in preparation for launching the recruitment of a new fundraising leader. Two Witt/Kieffer representatives will be back in late May for a second round of interviews. We anticipate having that slot filled by September 1.

Those are examples of two significant short-term issues that have required my attention. Planning for the long term is also of paramount importance, since we need to have two new 10-year plans for the University approved in the coming months. One is the strategic plan for the University that will define our academic and other University-wide priorities; the other is the master plan that will define how we develop our property, including our buildings, pathways, and landscape. Much work has already been undertaken for both plans. For example, the strategic plan is now on its 11th draft. On April 28, Provost James Brennan and Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Cathy Wood, who are the co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, presented the current draft of the strategic plan for review and discussion at the Administrative Council (vice presidents, deans, and other key administrators). On May 11 it will go to the Academic Senate for review and comment. Then the University’s Board of Trustees will evaluate it on June 7 and give us appropriate direction. Following the collection of all these inputs, we will continue to flesh out the specifics of the plan and embark on a new round of reviews in the fall, with final approval of the plan by the Board of Trustees in December. By then we will have invested an extraordinary amount of time – indeed, we have done so already, even though we’re only at the midpoint of the process – in ensuring that the plan is based on broad and deep input from members of the University community. Throughout we have endeavored to make the process transparent. I think the plan will be the better for all of this.

The development of a new master plan is contingent on a completed strategic plan. However, because we are required to submit a new master plan to the District of Columbia government by April 2012, we cannot wait until the strategic plan is completed in December before taking important initiatives toward developing a new master plan. We initiated the master plan process in late February. One interesting and important step forward occurred on April 18. Ayers Saint Gross, the firm that Catholic University has engaged to help formulate our plan, arranged for me, Vice President Wood, and other members of the University’s Master Plan Steering Committee to visit the campuses of Johns Hopkins University and Loyola University Maryland. Ayers Saint Gross has worked with both institutions to develop and implement their respective master plans. Like CUA, both institutions have had issues with campus traffic and parking. Like CUA, both have been concerned with the physical development of their respective properties to improve flow and connectivity. We spent a couple of hours at each University examining the ways in which the physical layout of each campus was improved through adoption of measures called for in their master plan. For me and the others on the tour, it was an eye-opening opportunity to re-imagine our University.

  
Jeanne and John Garvey speak with staff member Pete Queen during a faculty and staff reception after the President's inauguration in January.

I am sure that when the new academic year commences, I will be providing you with an update on our strategic and master plans. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the websites that are dedicated to these plans at http://spp.cua.edu/  and http://masterplan.cua.edu/ . We will continue to provide updated information to them as it becomes available.

I have been speaking of future plans. Of course any proper plan is anchored in a careful assessment of the past and present, including successes, failures, and challenges. Like every other Catholic college and university in the United States, we have been charged this spring with assessing how the University has applied the norms of Ex corde Ecclasiae, the Vatican document promulgated in 1990 by Pope John Paul II that defines the relationship between bishops and the Catholic colleges and universities in their respective dioceses. The norms for applying that apostolic constitution took effect May 3, 2001, so all Catholic colleges and universities have been engaged this semester in a review that covers the first decade of their implementation. We are being invited to conduct a careful self-examination that answers two related questions: 1) Are we in communion with the Church and our local bishop? and 2) How well are we doing in fulfilling our Catholic mission and promoting our Catholic identity? With input from all of our academic deans, I prepared a report that answers these questions and presented a draft of it to our chancellor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. He and I met to discuss it in mid-April. I’m happy to say that Cardinal Wuerl evaluated the report very favorably. I hope to have a final version to share with all the bishops of the United States in the coming weeks. The message I took away from my meeting with the cardinal was this: regarding CUA’s Catholic mission and identity, keep doing what we’re doing, only more and better.

This week I will attend my first American Cardinals Dinner, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix will co-host this year’s scholarship fundraiser with me. I understand that our students are the stars of the dinner, so I very much look forward to seeing them shine. The following week, I will experience my first Commencement at Catholic University as we salute our graduates and welcome House Speaker John Boehner as our main speaker.

If I don’t see you in the coming days, I hope you have a wonderful summer, restful for those who need the break and fulfilling for those ready to embrace the next challenge.


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Last Revised 02-May-11 12:00 PM.